Grandparents: What’s Your Christmas Story?

Heading into the Christmas season we are once again reminded of the greatest story ever told-of God’s gracious love for His people, most perfectly demonstrated by His entering into our world. The story, part of an even larger story of God’s love for His people, will be repeated innumerable times during this season to the delight of both young and old. There is just something about a story.

People all come prewired for stories. And for grandparents, that is great news.

A well shared story possesses the power to help understand our world, stir our emotions, and can call us to action. Jesus certainly utilized that power by using parables and story as a near ubiquitous method of teaching.

Stories are an excellent way for grandparents to influence, teach, and inspire their grandchildren.  Long before communication was written down, stories were the primary form of transmitting traditions, experiences, and lessons learned.  

Storytelling allows listeners/readers to enter into the narrative as a sort of participant. When done well, it is an immersive experience which engages our imagination, our perceptions, and a provides a passion for a resolution. While storytelling can be done with books, film, music, etc. my strongest vote is, when possible, for the age-old method of oration.

Even the growing field of brain science reinforces the impact of stories. Researchers report that when we hear stories our brains actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller.  We enter into the narrative. 

Grandparents have a lot of stories to share. Surprisingly to me, many feel they have nothing their grandkids want to hear.  And nothing could be further from the truth.

Grandparents wishing to become intentional about their spiritual influence upon grandkids should seriously consider embracing storytelling. When meeting with grandparents, I suggest the following three places to begin:

1. Your basic life story.  This story represents the foundation of the who, what, where, and when of our lives. Grandchildren enjoy the specifics of circumstances and individuals that were part of our own lives. These stories can be as simple or complex as you care to make them, but grandkids relish both the big strokes (the year and location for instance of our birth) but also the many anecdotal facts that surround our life story (where we met our spouse, our favorite pets, our most challenging experiences, etc.) The most seemingly insignificant facts are cherished by grandchildren as they listen to you discuss your life experiences. This type of story helps grandkids to grasp where they fit in the tapestry of the family. It engenders a sense of belonging and value in the family.

2. Your faith story.  As faithful grandparents, we intuitively know that faith is the bedrock of our lives. Privately we know the intimately personal reasons and experiences that led us to have a living faith in Christ and His Church. But keeping this “private” in most cases is the problem. Our faith is not meant to be private. It is meant to be personal. And sharing the reasons for our commitment can be a catalyst for grandchildren searching for purpose in their own lives. Your faith story concretizes the belief that Catholicism is a relational reality with Christ and not some vague value system or spiritual myth.

In December of 1975 Pope St. Paul VI famously said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

So what is your faith story? How did Christ first impact your conscious mind and heart?  Share it.

3. Faith & Family Stories. Grandchildren of all ages love stories about their ancestors. Stories about heroism and defeat; courage and regret; personal lessons learned-both positive and negative. We love to relate to the lives of others and particularly those within our family line. Enormous resources can be found on the Internet which can bring to life pictures, historical documents, surprising facts and so much more.

In a similar way, stories of our ancestors in the faith-the saints-bring alive the reality that it is possible,   and desirable, to live lives of virtue and grace. Every saint has a story that can act as a concrete example to our grandkids.

When it comes to sharing your stories, Pope St. John Paul II’s proclamation to “be not afraid” is so appropriate. As faithful, intentional Catholic grandparent the admonition  is clear: Share Your Story!

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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Dan Spencer III has been married to his wife Linda for 48 years. They are the parents of 4 married children and have 16 grandchildren. Dan is Catholic revert, author with Our Sunday Visitor, and national Catholic speaker. He has appeared on numerous national catholic media outlets such as EWTN’s The Journey Home, Vatican Radio, At Home with Jim & Joy, Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo and The Choices We Face with Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck, discussing topics of concern to families including the role of parents in safeguarding their children. He is the co-founder of the Catholic Business Network, and the past Executive Director of National Fellowship of Catholic Men. In 2015, he founded Project Patriarch for men over 50 years old to examine the role of Christian grandfathers in the lives of their grandchildren. That project has now been integrated with his most recent grandparenting ministry, Legacy of Faith, which helps educate and equip grandparents, in collaboration with their married children, to spiritually influence their grandchildren and future generations to remain faithful to Christ. Dan and his wife are active lay leaders in their parish and throughout the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for over 25 years.

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